Way back when – before Instagram filters and digital do overs – every frame counted and Kodachrome was the filter. The New York Times photographer Todd Heisler recently got around to processing a box of his dad’s old Kodachrome slides, and in doing so, he discovered not only a series of beautiful images from the 1950s, but revealed a previously lost voice of his father Gordon.
More from Todd’s post on the Lens Blog:
“Cutting my teeth at newspapers in the 1990s, I had never shot in Kodachrome. Our film of choice (rather, necessity) was dull color negative, scanned. I didn’t anticipate the transformative power of a box of well-exposed Kodachromes taken nearly 50 years ago by Dad.
With the Kodachrome images, there is something deeper. There is a deliberate aesthetic at play, an eye for color, a voice. Perhaps a brief burst of creativity before the responsibilities of life with three boys took over. I wish so dearly that I could ask him about these images.”
Read the article and see all of the great photos here.
Comments on “Mr. Heisler’s Voice Found in Kodachrome”
I shot in Kodachrome (25, 64, and blech, 200) and yeah, as so called serious photographers know, it definitely ruled (well, until Velvia came out) and creating/projecting slide shows was a big part of the thrill. In looking at these images, I don’t see any particular genius, frankly. Yes, the skies are wonderfully rendered, but the subject matter is pretty mundane and the composition about what you would expect from photographs taken in the 1950s. No surprise – people lived differently back then! That’ kind of makes the images interesting. (It would have been more intriguing to see a jet from Pan Am, Eastern, or some other defunct airline – Delta is still with us!). But this isn’t Eliot Porter or Ernst Haas stuff. Due to print degradation etc we all have shoeboxes of faded photographs from days gone by (even my Kodachromes have been affected, likely due to improper storage). And a lot of the times, you ended up chucking pix because a single element was screwed up – focus, depth of field, crooked horizon lines, whatever. (You were really screwed if you forgot to change the ASA from, say, 64 to 25…
I love and miss kodachrome very much. I still think it is interesting how both kodachrome and polaroid decided to discontinue production when they were becoming so popular. Delightful post Michael! I was looking through some old kodachrome slides the other day and it’s so interesting how much history can be seen through them. Of course, old photographs can tell stories of times gone past, but there’s just something about kodachrome that does the job in a somewhat magical way.
Do have you shot any kodachrome before Michael?
I’ve been following for a couple of years and was instantly a fan of the Kodachrome series. I think the most interesting ones are the casual/vacation shots. That generation had a certain style with even their “play clothes.”
Film was never as good as it is today, yet it is getting harder and more expensive to buy and process. I only shoot film not because I’m against digital but because I find film more beautiful and there is some merit in waiting to get the result (having the film processed).
One of the other thrills of Kodachrome was the fact that slides made from Kodak film were projected onto home screens. I would argue that even the computer or the flat screen TV cannot compete with the carousel projector and Kodachrome slides.
good god, those degraded ones are screaming to become album covers!
Worth noting – that Delta plane appears to be an early wide-body, of which they only had one type: the Lockheed L-1011, a beautifully engineered piece of American machinery which unfortunately wasn’t positioned right and caused Lockheed’s exit from the commercial aircraft biz. The completely inferior DC-10 outsold it 3:1, while the 767 and A300 put the nails in the coffin with far higher efficiency.
I was fortunate to enjoy one round trip to Dulles on one of these birds. It was possibly the best ride I’ve ever had and through the worst storm aloft I’ve ever seen. Not too shabby.
Tad â€” thank you for that excellent comment.
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